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  • Jul 16, 2020

Lotus leaf like structure wins MMCA Gwacheon Project 2020

STPMJ’s rendering image of The Surface, 2020, at

On July 13, the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea (MMCA) announced New York- and Seoul-based architectural group stpmj as the winner of the MMCA Gwacheon Project 2020, part of the museum’s initiative to develop and vitalize its exterior space. The group’s site-specific vision will be realized in MMCA Gwacheon’s outdoor sculpture garden from late September, on display until May 2021.

The group’s winning proposal, titled The Surface, will modify the museum’s sloping lawn with 700 circular structures, suspended mid-air to evoke a lotus leaf-filled pond. The interactive installation encourages visitors to explore the outdoors while reimagining the ideas of “breath,” “rest,” and “pleasure,” all keywords of the work. The proposal was praised by the jury for its attentiveness to “efficiency and environmental friendliness,” with MMCA director Youn Bummo characterizing it as a “haven for rest and pleasure,” saying: “I hope all citizens will find respite from the ongoing COVID-19 crisis in this chance to breathe, rest, and delight in joy.” 

Founded in 2009 by Seung Teak Lee and Mi Jung Lim, stpmj is known for its architectural agenda of “provocative realism,” for which minimalist designs are employed to enhance the natural environment. The team was recognized with the 2016 Korean Young Architects Award, the Korea Architecture Awards 2019, and the global Design Vanguard Award in 2017, among others. Most recently, the studio received the 2020 AIA New York Design Award, following a similar achievement in 2017 and 2019, for its vertical real-estate project “five-story house” in Seoul.  

A total of 15 nominations, with some teams nominated by multiple panelists, were presented by a panel of South Korean academics, critics, and press personnel to the MMCA for this year’s open competition. Other candidates include Seoul-based architecture studios Diagonal Thoughts and CoRe Architects. 

MMCA Korea was established in 1969 and has two locations in central Seoul adjacent to the palace complexes of Deoksugung and Gyeongbokgung; Gwacheon, which is located in the suburbs south of Seoul, is considered its main campus for exhibitions; and in Cheongju, which is also the museum's storage and conservation facilities. Some of its other architecture-related initiatives include the annual Young Architects Program, held in collaboration with New York’s MoMA PS1, to promote and install rising architects’ projects in urban spaces. The Deoksugung Project was initiated in 2012 to showcase contemporary art in conversation with the architectural heritage of the Deoksugung Palace. With the Gwacheon Project, the MMCA shifts its focus from outdoor urban installation to reflect on and promote environmental awareness and concordance through art.

Fion Tse is an editorial intern at ArtAsiaPacific.

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